Many of the full-time employees for the city of Athens will soon be receiving a one-time bonus in honor of their hard work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The City Council unanimously passed a resolution during the Monday, Nov. 22, meeting to give $1,000 in premium pay to each eligible employee. The funds will come from federal CARES Act money previously given to the city.

“We are certainty excited to be able to do this,” Council member Chris Seibert said. “The business of the city didn't stop during COVID. A lot of people, not of their own choice, were forced to close, but the business of the city did not stop. It's nice to be able to do this one-time thing for those folks and recognize them.”

Eligibility

Mayor Ronnie Marks said the one-time premium pay is something he and other city officials looked at “very carefully” before bringing the item before the Council.

He said the idea is to give $1,000 to full-time employees who helped get the city through issues related to the pandemic.

However, thanks to federal regulations, not all city employees are eligible to receive the funds. Marks explained that the federal government placed a cap on the money. He said any city employee who makes more than 150% of the Alabama yearly average salary, $70,260, is not eligible to receive the premium payment.

“We've had guys and ladies that have worked hard during COVID and filled in and had to put in overtime, and overtime has bumped them over that level,” Marks said.

City Clerk Annette Threet reaffirmed that the cap is a federal rule, not one set by the city of Athens. She said roughly 70-100 of the city's 370 full-time employees were expected to be ineligible for the premium payment due to making over the cap. She said the payments were expected to cost the city $300,000.

Threet said before the vote if the payment were to be approved, the city would run two payrolls at the end of the year, the usual payment and an additional for the premium to those who qualify.

Council member Frank Travis asked if city employees who would not be receiving the payment would be notified beforehand.

Threet said notice would go out to employees if and when the measure was passed. She said it was also possible for some employees to get a portion of the premium depending on where their final yearly pay amount fell after the last payroll of 2021.

City Attorney Shane Black said one of the four uses of CARES Act funds outlined by the federal government is premium pay for employees who were considered essential workers and remained on the job during the pandemic.

“All of our city employees were considered essential, and they all came in contact with the public in some way during the pandemic, so they all qualify except those above the income cap,” Black said.

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